« AnteriorContinuar »
sections of this country could not stand against the wave of the world's indignation.
Another thing, my friends; I put it on this lower ground, the ground of political expediency. That is not a good ground to appeal on, but I throw it in and make it last. Politically it will be the wisest piece of legislation that you have ever passed in this Nation. Remember, the cornered rat will fight. The worm turns. Don't tell us to be patient any more. We have tried patience, and as our patience grew the mob spirit grew until, gentlemen, last summer it came under the shadow of the dome of this, Capitol and reached to the front door and steps of the White House, and colored people put patience away.
The State broke down. The police power of the State broke down and sympathized with the mob, and instead of arresting the perpetrators they were hunting down negroes who were bearing arms in self-defense and filled the jail. Some of these people were goaded to desperate resistance, and while the police were filling the jails they filled the morgue, and from Washington that spirit spread to Chicago and even invaded the South in Knoxville. Remember, don't try to make enemies out of people who want to get along with you and who love all white people who are great enough to be just. Make friends of the people who want to be friendly with you for your own sake,
just as much as it does the poor, helpless victim, and you must remember that self-defense is not only a divine right but a sacred duty, in spite of the Attorney General of the United States. Gentlemen, get Senate Document 153 and read the last 30 pages of that document, a prolonged wail against us people who are tired of being lynched, and the Attorney General is mortified that he should find à new reaction against mob violence, that we will no longer submit to hanging on a limb or over the crackling flame. Gentlemen, let me tell you, and this is no threat. We have found in many communities a cure for mob law, and when the State says it has no cure the individual is driven to self defense, a divine right, a sacred duty which lies at the basis of our constitution and is the basic creed of all free institutions. I do not say it as a threat but when the mob comes we are going to meet it with that same desperate courage with which we died on Flanders field and stormed the towers of mighty Metz. These men fought Germany in distant fields against organized autocracy, supposedly for democracy. We can fight right at home in defense of our loved ones, our little babes, our wives and children and our mothers.
As I say, you must not feel that we are doing anything that is wrong when we strike back at the fellow who is attacking us. I can give you my own personal experience. I had never owned a pistol in my life. I saw the necessity of it when I saw the mob raging before my house, and now I am ready for the mob, just as thousands of other colored people are ready for the mob, and the indifference of the Nation has made it necessary that we prepare to preserve the greatest thing in life, which is life itself. So I ask you gentlemen not to be indifferent. I know the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments have been read away largely by judicial decree and national indifference. I say you are simply forcing us to the wall. We realize that the State has broken down. I have heard expressions
by so many white men who have heard southern white men talk of their determination to see that these soldiers 400,000 strong, drafted and sent to distant fields to fight for democracy shall not have any of that democracy for which they so gloriously died. There is a growing spirit among Negroes that if we are able to face Germany's awful fire, the most terrific military machine the world has ever seen, if we can carry the American flag to the Rhine, we can certainly preserve the lives of the poor little innocent, helpless babes of the
know this, that when law-abiding people are goaded to desperate resistance and they organize to drive the mob back, you have war, and in war, reprisal, that dangerous thing, is always resorted to. Wnat do you have? The lives of innocent white men and women, lives of innocent black men and women and children, put into jeopardy.
We saw that in this mob here last spring. It was dangerous for white people to go into Negro districts and dangerous for any Negro to go into white districts, and here you put into peril the lives of innocent people who have absolutely no sympathy with mob law. I would like to see this Nation, since it calls itself a great democracy, although we have lived here for 250 years and never enjoyed a single blessing from democracy, rise to its sense of duty and teach the world that we are able to live up to these lofty professions which President Wilson heralded all over Europe and all over the world, although he is so painfully silent upon them here in this country. You should try to destroy every bit of discrimination, as Mr. Grimke has pointed out. When you take away one man's rights, you cheapen those rights and you teach Americans that he is an inferior thing, that he can be imposed upon with impunity, hence you invite lynching, you invite the mob to attack him, thinking that it has murdered a lower order of being and that it is to suffer no punishment for it. The rights are all the same—the right to go into the restaurant of the House of Representatives, of the Senate and Library across the way, that belong to me as they do to all the other 112,000,000 of people in this country. The right to go to those places is as sacred as the right to live, and when we contend for that we are simply trying to vindicate the sacred principle of democracy, which is just as sacred as life itself.
Let the Congress of the United States lead the way. Masses everywhere are like sheep. They follow leaders. All that is necessary to destroy wrong in this country is for the men who occupy the seats of power to attack and condemn. President Wilson, with the stroke of his pen could destroy segregation in the departments to-day and every subordinate under him would say “Amen.” He could restore the merit system to the civil service with equal ease. The Congress of the United States could destroy lynching. The Supreme Court rose in its might two years ago and destroyed residential segregation, in which the Hon. Mr. Dyer and his great family figured so promunently in the State of Missouri. Let men in places of power say that laws must be obeyed and the commonalty of men will obey them. It is the indifference of the law-making bodies and executives of tie States and city and Nation that makes the mob.
So, gentlemen, let me plead with you in the name of the thousands of brave, black boys who never saw a free day that at this very hour are sleeping their last sleep upon the sweet hilltops in France in your defense, let me beg of you in the name of the loved ones that they have left, and for whom they made the supreme sacrifice in the hope that those loved ones would get the thing for which they were told to die; I say, let me plead with you to declare before the world that we believe in democracy in actual life and not in rhetoric. Then we will stand, having solved the problem of the ages, that of making a free government from a great mass of the people. STATEMENT OF PROF. GEORGE WILLIAM COOK, HOWARD
UNIVERSITY, WASHINGTON, D. C.
Mr. Cook. I have been coming to the Capitol appearing before committees for nigh onto 20 years. I must say that I have never been before a committee where the occasion was of such vast and deep importance as this appearance to-day. You may read it through the inference or read where the inference is given, or you may read it out of the logic of events, that this committee representing the judiciary of the United States in Congress assembled is to-day challenged. The presentation of facts and conditions here to-day are such that if this committee does not take a very serious consideration of it it is scarcely up to the level of its own duty.
We did not come here to-day simply for the purpose of talking to you. We came here to convince you as we know it, and as we hope to show it to you that this awful carnage of lynching and injustice in so many different ways must be stopped or we have our backs to the wall. My family is broken to-day and let me give you the circumstances. As my wife and I motored from Washington last July, we heard in Baltimore that there was a race riot in Washington. It was Tuesday after Monday the last day of the riot. We hastened here because we had one son, our only child, a young boy whom we found home, and I asked him. "Where were you, George ?” “I was in it.” “Why were you in it?” “You can not take me out and shoot me like a dog. I am going to die fighting if I have to die.” There is an 18-year-old boy. He contemplated that thing, and he said finally, "Papa, I am not going to stay here.” He is somewhat of a law unto himself. I said, Where are you going ?” “I am going out of the country.” “Where do you propose to go first ?” “I think that I will go to Canada and go to school.” He went to Canada. These holidays he returned to Washington on a visit and he was not home two days before he said, "I smelt it as soon as I reached Baltimore and I am going away
agatow, you may have been tea growing
Now, you may consider that as an isolated case or you may consider it trivial. I have been teaching young colored men for 40 years. I have tested the opinion and growing conviction. I want to say if you want to drive out a pure unadulterated loyalty that has existed in the colored man, just allow this lynching to continue. You are all men of spirit and courage and belong to the Anglo-Saxon race. You would not stand it. You did not stand taxation without representation with very little personal violence attached to it and you were right, and I want to say here as far as I can gauge my people they are loyal to the backbone, they want no disturbance, and they will accept none until forced to. That is our position in the matter.
Why did I speak of that boy? Do you want to drive citizens who are loyal from your shores. You have sent away the undesirables.
We are not undesirable; no. You want the labor, but we are going to say and can say that along with that response and the giving of labor we are going to ask for our God-given rights, and it is our duty as far as possible to demand them.
There was a question raised this morning as to loyalty. There seems to be some little idea that possibly the negro is not quite as loyal as he used to be. The Attorney General of the United States shows that in 30 pages, I read almost all of it night before last and there are some in the South who feel the same way.
Mr. SUMNERS. Just a moment. I made the statement that there was no evidence. I made the statement that there was no general evidence of disloyalty on the part of the colored man toward the Government. I made that upon my own responsibility.
Mr. Cook. I meant simply the question that came before us. I want to say now, sir, that the colored man is loyal. He is loyal in secret and he is loyal openly, and there is but one way to shake that loyalty. He sings, "My Country, 'Tis of Thee,” with all the luster and all of the sincerity that you sing, and there is now but one way to shake that, and that is to continue the lawlessness against him, and when you find him raising his hand in defense it is against the mob. He never voluntarily raises his hand against the Government, never has, never was an assassin, political assassin or menace, never was a traitor, there is not one that betrayed the confidence in all of the wars, and in all you have had he has engaged. There never was one. Therefore, I appeal to you now to help us because we are a weak people, financially, economically, but with all the opposition we have had we are stronger than we were 50 years ago, and it is not only in strength that we would come and ask you, we would come and ask you in our helplessness, that we, as American citizens, in the Thomas Jefferson declaration sense, are willing to die rather than continue our serfdom.
It is only necessary to be a little honest. You gentlemen who have studied the Elaine case understand it. These four brothers were not in the riot. They were out hunting when that treacherous gang came to them and told them they had better go home because they might get into trouble, and “let us have your guns in order that you will not be considered in the mob.” They got their guns and then shot them to death. They had not done anything and did not even know a riot was going on in the town. I appeal to every man on this committee and I am sorry they are not here to hear these other gentlemen speak. I am only taking up the ravelled ends and appeal to you upon pure justice first, and then on the lower ground of political necessity, to give us our rights. Do not allow your communities to deny the colored man an accounting when he has given his sweat toward the cultivation of the crop. Let him have an accounting and treat him fairly.
We bring this general proposition to you and we can support every one of them by cases upon cases. The most horrible thing of it all in that lynching, when they shot these four brothers to death, that they scarcely knew for what they were being shot. That was a lynching. Now, it is too late, and I am glad to see by the public press, the white press, that the white man is half ashamed of bringing attacks upon women as the great cause for lynching. The record has been too well kept by the Chicago Tribune and by The Crisis. We know why it is. Men have been lynched for nothing else but wearing the uniform of the United States Government. It was but yesterday that a young man in my class in commercial law said to me: “I will tell you something." I went to him when I came out of the classroom. He said: "I was simply standing in the street down in South Carolina talking when a young white man came up and said, “What are you doing with this on?" He says, “I just came out of the Army." “Well, you can not wear that down here.” Can not wear the uniform of the United States Government down there? Just a few feet away they brought up another one and he left for nothing but wearing the uniform. He said he went to the post office for his father's mail and the postmaster said to him, “Do you want the package that is here?” He said, “No, I can not carry that, I will wait for the car to come in.” This young man said, “What did you say to me?" I said, “No, I will not take that now." He said, "I want you to know you can not talk that way to me. You must say, 'sir,' to me, if you propose to stay about here," and started to come out to him. He talked up and said, “If you come after me on a charge like that, one or both of us will report to God to-day.”
That is just yesterday. Do you blame the man for saying it. No security from attack upon a colored man even though he had the uniform of the United States Government upon him; this young man in the post office assuming to chastise a man who had given his all for the life of the Government, offered his all, for the protection of the flag of the United States. He said his father said to him, “You had better go. They might take out revenge on me and burn us out." He was not wrong in telling that young man to go away. The other young men had gone away. These cases are not imaginary cases. These have happened.
Now, there are two points I wanted to make. One is will you continue to teach the younger element of the 12,000,000 of people to ask the question, Is loyalty worth while ? One you have driven out of the country. We are bereft of our son, as I told you. He made up his mind that he would not die like a dog and that he would get out of it. Are you anxious to lose loyal citizens? If the economic condition of the Negro was such, hundreds of them, not as immigrants to Liberia or some place set apart for them, would migrate upon economic grounds, you may say, and go out as pioneers, but we have been chained down in America for over 300 years, the sweat of our brow has gone into the wealth of the Nation; it is undeniable because the statistics of your own department records will show it. What we ask now is protection under the flag that we have fought to keep aloft in as many wars as you have engaged in. Well might we repeat what Carney said when he returned at Fort Wagner, “The old Aag never touched the ground," you have never heard of a Negro color bearer of the United States going to the rear unless ordered there. That is a sample of the feeling of the colored people.
We are born here. “My Country, 'Tís of Thee,” I sing. You will find some few colored neople, and probably with just convictions, who will not sing it. I sing it. Why? It is my country. Born here, my mother and father before me and my grandmother and grandfather, and what they added in honest industry went to help build up this Nation and to make it strong. It is my country. I will not forsake it. Why? I will treat it very much as I will a